Chapter 8. ARISTIPPUS (c. 435-350 B.C.)
Aristippus was by birth a citizen of Cyrene and,
as Aeschines informs us, was drawn to Athens by
the fame of Socrates. Having come forward as a
lecturer or sophist, as Phanias of Eresus, the Peripatetic, informs us, he was the first of the followers
of Socrates to charge fees and to send money to his
master. And on one occasion the sum of twenty
minae which he had sent was returned to him,
Socrates declaring that the supernatural sign would
not let him take it; the very offer, in fact, annoyed
him. Xenophon was no friend to Aristippus; and
for this reason he has made Socrates direct against
Aristippus the discourse in which he denounces
what Theodorus in his work
abuses him, and so does Plato in the
On the Soul
as has been shown elsewhere.
He was capable of adapting himself to place, time
and person, and of playing his part appropriately
under whatever circumstances. Hence he found
more favour than anybody else with Dionysius,
because he could always turn the situation to good
account. He derived pleasure from what was present,
and did not toil to procure the enjoyment of something not present Hence Diogenes called him the
Timon, too, sneered at him for luxury
in these words4
Such was the delicate nature of Aristippus, who groped
after error by touch.5
He is said to have ordered a partridge to be bought
at a cost of fifty drachmae, and, when someone censured him, he inquired, "Would not you have given
an obol for it?" and, being answered in the affirmative, rejoined, "Fifty drachmae are no more to me."
And when Dionysius gave him his choice of three
courtesans, he carried off all three, saying, "Paris
paid dearly for giving the preference to one out of
three." And when he had brought them as far as
the porch, he let them go. To such lengths did he
go both in choosing and in disdaining. Hence the
remark of Strato, or by some accounts of Plato,
"You alone are endowed with the gift to flaunt in
robes or go in rags." He bore with Dionysius when
he spat on him, and to one who took him to task he
replied, "If the fishermen let themselves be drenched
with sea-water in order to catch a gudgeon, ought I
not to endure to be wetted with negus in order to
take a blenny?"
Diogenes, washing the dirt from his vegetables,
saw him passing and jeered at him in these terms,
"If you had learnt to make these your diet, you
would not have paid court to kings," to which his
rejoinder was, "And if you knew how to associate
with men, you would not be washing vegetables."
Being asked what he had gained from philosophy,
he replied, "The ability to feel at ease in any
society." Being reproached for his extravagance,
he said, "If it were wrong to be extravagant, it
would not be in vogue at the festivals of the gods."
Being once asked what advantage philosophers have,
he replied, "Should all laws be repealed, we shall
go on living as we do now."
When Dionysius inquired what was the reason that philosophers go to
rich men's houses, while rich men no longer visit
philosophers, his reply was that "the one know what
they need while the other do not." When he was
reproached by Plato for his extravagance, he inquired, "Do you think Dionysius a good man?"
and the reply being in the affirmative, "And yet,"
said he, "he lives more extravagantly than I do.
So that there is nothing to hinder a man living
extravagantly and well." To the question how the
educated differ from the uneducated, he replied,
"Exactly as horses that have been trained differ
from untrained horses." One day, as he entered
the house of a courtesan, one of the lads with him
blushed, whereupon he remarked, "It is not going
in that is dangerous, but being unable to go out."
Some one brought him a knotty problem with the
request that he would untie the knot. "Why, you
simpleton," said he, "do you want it untied, seeing
that it causes trouble enough as it is?" "It is
better," he said, "to be a beggar than to be uneducated; the one needs money, the others need to
be humanized." One day that he was reviled, he
tried to slip away; the other pursued him, asking,
"Why do you run away?" "Because," said he,
"as it is your privilege to use foul language, so it is
my privilege not to listen." In answer to one who
remarked that he always saw philosophers at rich
men's doors, he said, "So, too, physicians are in
attendance on those who are sick, but no one for that
reason would prefer being sick to being a physician."
It happened once that he set sail for Corinth and,
being overtaken by a storm, he was in great consternation. Some one said, "We plain men are not
alarmed, and are you philosophers turned cowards?"
To this he replied, "The lives at stake in the two
cases are not comparable." When some one gave
himself airs for his wide learning, this is what he
said: "As those who eat most and take the most
exercise are not better in health than those who
restrict themselves to what they require, so too it is
not wide reading but useful reading that tends to
excellence." An advocate, having pleaded for him
and won the case, thereupon put the question,
"What good did Socrates do you?" "Thus much,"
was the reply, "that what you said of me in your
speech was true."
He gave his daughter Arete the very best advice,
training her up to despise excess. He was asked
by some one in what way his son would be the better
for being educated. He replied, "If nothing more
than this, at all events, when in the theatre he
will not sit down like a stone upon stone." When
some one brought his son as a pupil, he asked a fee
of 500 drachmae. The father objected, "For that
sum I can buy a slave." "Then do so," was the
reply, "and you will have two." He said that he
did not take money from his friends for his own
use, but to teach them upon what objects their
money should be spent. When he was reproached
for employing a rhetorician to conduct his case, he
made reply, "Well, if I give a dinner, I hire a cook."
Being once compelled by Dionysius to enunciate
some doctrine of philosophy, "It would be ludicrous,"
he said, "that you should learn from me what to
say, and yet instruct me when to say it." At this,
they say, Dionysius was offended and made him
recline at the end of the table. And Aristippus
said, "You must have wished to confer distinction
on the last place." To some one who boasted of his
diving, "Are you not ashamed," said he, "to brag
of that which a dolphin can do?" Being asked on
one occasion what is the difference between the wise
man and the unwise, "Strip them both," said he,
"and send them among strangers and you will know."
To one who boasted that he could drink a great deal
without getting drunk, his rejoinder was, "And so
can a mule."
To one who accused him of living with a courtesan,
he put the question, "Why, is there any difference
between taking a house in which many people have
lived before and taking one in which nobody has
ever lived?" The answer being "No," he continued, "Or again, between sailing in a ship in
which ten thousand persons have sailed before and
in one in which nobody has ever sailed?" "There
is no difference." "Then it makes no difference,"
said he, "whether the woman you live with has
lived with many or with nobody." To the accusation that, although he was a pupil of Socrates, he
took fees, his rejoinder was, "Most certainly I do,
for Socrates, too, when certain people sent him corn
and wine, used to take a little and return all the
rest; and he had the foremost men in Athens for
his stewards, whereas mine is my slave Eutychides."
He enjoyed the favours of Laïs, as Sotion states in
the second book of his
those who censured him his defence was, "I have
Lais, not she me; and it is not abstinence from
pleasures that is best, but mastery over them without
ever being worsted." to one who reproached him
with extravagance in catering, he replied, "Wouldn't
you have bought this if you could have got it for
three obols?" The answer being in the affirmative,
"Very well, then," said Aristippus, "I am no longer
a lover of pleasure, it is you who are a lover of
money." One day Simus, the steward of Dionysius,
a Phrygian by birth and a rascally fellow, was showing him costly houses with tesselated pavements,
when Aristippus coughed up phlegm and spat in his
face. And on his resenting this he replied, "I could
not find any place more suitable."
When Charondas (or, as others say, Phaedo) inquired, "Who is this who reeks with unguents?"
he replied, "It is I, unlucky wight, and the still more
unlucky Persian king. But, as none of the other
animals are at any disadvantage on that account,
consider whether it be not the same with man.
Confound the effeminates who spoil for us the use of
good perfume." Being asked how Socrates died, he
answered, "As I would wish to die myself." Polyxenus the sophist once paid him a visit and, after
having seen ladies present and expensive entertainment, reproached him with it later. After an interval Aristippus asked him, "Can you join us today?"
On the other accepting the invitation,
Aristippus inquired, "Why, then, did you find fault?
For you appear to blame the cost and not the entertainment." When his servant was carrying money
and found the load too heavy--the story is told by
Bion in his
--Aristippus cried, "Pour away
the greater part, and carry no more than you can
manage." Being once on a voyage, as soon as he
discovered the vessel to be manned by pirates, he
took out his money and began to count it, and then,
as if by inadvertence, he let the money fall into
the sea, and naturally broke out into lamentation.
Another version of the story attributes to him the
further remark that it was better for the money to
perish on account of Aristippus than for Aristippus
to perish on account of the money. Dionysius once
asked him what he was come for, and he said it was
to impart what he had and obtain what he had not.
But some make his answer to have been, "When I
needed wisdom, I went to Socrates; now that I am
in need of money, I come to you." He used to complain of mankind that in purchasing earthenware
they made trial whether it rang true, but had no
regular standard by which to judge life. Others
attribute this remark to Diogenes. One day Dionysius over the wine commanded everybody to put on
purple and dance. Plato declined, quoting the line6
I could not stoop to put on women's
Aristippus, however, put on the dress and, as he was
about to dance, was ready with the repartee:
Even amid the Bacchic revelry
True modesty will not be put to shame.7
He made a request to Dionysius on behalf of a
friend and, failing to obtain it, fell down at his feet.
And when some one jeered at him, he made reply,
"It is not I who am to blame, but Dionysius who has
his ears in his feet." He was once staying in Asia
and was taken prisoner by Artaphernes, the satrap.
"Can you be cheerful under these circumstances?"
some one asked. "Yes, you simpleton," was the
reply, "for when should I be more cheerful than
now that I am about to converse with Artaphernes?"
Those who went through the ordinary curriculum,
but in their studies stopped short at philosophy, he
used to compare to the suitors of Penelope. For
the suitors won Melantho, Polydora and the rest of
the handmaidens, but were anything but successful
in their wooing of the mistress.
A similar remark
is ascribed to Ariston. For, he said, when Odysseus
went down into the under-world, he saw nearly all
the dead and made their acquaintance, but he never
set eyes upon their queen herself.
Again, when Aristippus was asked what are the
subjects which handsome boys ought to learn, his
reply was, "Those which will be useful to them when
they are grown up." To the critic who censured
him for leaving Socrates to go to Dionysius, his
rejoinder was, "Yes, but I came to Socrates for
education and to Dionysius for recreation." When
he had made some money by teaching, Socrates
asked him, "Where did you get so much?" to which
he replied, "Where you got so little."
A courtesan having told him that she was with
child by him, he replied, "You are no more sure of
this than if, after running through coarse rushes, you
were to say you had been pricked by one in particular." Someone accused him of exposing his son
as if it was not his offspring Whereupon he replied,
"Phlegm, too, and vermin we know to be of our
own begetting, but for all that, because they are
useless, we cast them as far from us as possible."
He received a sum of money from Dionysius at the
same time that Plato carried off a book and, when
he was twitted with this, his reply was,, "Well, I
want money, Plato wants books." Some one asked
him why he let himself be refuted by Dionysius.
"For the same reason," said he, "as the others
Dionysius met a request of his for money with the
words, "Nay, but you told me that the wise man
would never be in want." To which he retorted,
"Pay! Pay! and then let us discuss the question;"
and when he was paid, "Now you see, do you not,"
said he, "that I was not found wanting?" Dionysius
having repeated to him the lines:
Whoso betakes him to a prince's court
Becomes his slave, albeit of free birth,8
If a free man he come, no slave is he.From a lost play of Sophocles: Plutarch,
poetis, 12, p. 33 d,
Vita Pomp. 78, p. 661
This is stated by Diocles in his work
On the Lives
; other writers refer the anecdotes to
Plato. After getting in a rage with Aeschines, he
presently addressed him thus: "Are we not to make
it up and desist from vapouring, or will you wait for
some one to reconcile us over the wine-bowl?" To
which he replied, "Agreed."
Aristippus went on, "that, though I am your senior,
I made the first approaches." Thereupon Aeschines
said, "Well done, by Hera, you are quite right; you
are a much better man than I am. For the quarrel
was of my beginning, you make the first move to
friendship." Such are the repartees which are
attributed to him.
There have been four men called Aristippus, (1)
our present subject, (2) the author of a book about
Arcadia, (3) the grandchild by a daughter of the
first Aristippus, who was known as his mother's pupil,
(4) a philosopher of the New Academy.
The following books by the Cyrenaic philosopher
are in circulation: a history of Libya in three Books,
sent to Dionysius; one work containing twenty-five
dialogues, some written in Attic, some in Doric, as
To the shipwrecked.
To the Exiles.
To a Beggar.
To Laïs, On the Mirror.
To the Master of the Revels.
To his Friends.
To those who blame him for his love of old wine
and of women.
To those who blame him for extravagant living.
Letter to his daughter Arete.
To one in training for Olympia.
An Occasional Piece to Dionysius.
Another, On the Statue.
Another, On the daughter of Dionysius.
To one who considered himself slighted.
To one who essayed to be a counsellor.
Some also maintain that he wrote six Books of
Essays; others, and among them Sosicrates of
Rhodes, that he wrote none at all.
According to Sotion in his second book, and
Panaetius, the following treatises are his:
Introduction to Philosophy.
Six books of Essays.
Three books of Occasional Writings (χρεῖαι
He laid down as the end the smooth motion resulting in sensation.
Having written his life, let me now proceed to
pass in review the philosophers of the Cyrenaic school
which sprang from him, although some call themselves followers of Hegesias, others followers of
, others again of Theodorus.10
what we shall notice further the pupils of Phaedo,
the chief of whom were called the school of Eretria.
The case stands thus. The disciples of Aristippus
were his daughter Arete, Aethiops of Ptolemais,11
and Antipater of Cyrene. The pupil of Arete was
Aristippus, who went by the name of mother-taught,
and his pupil was Theodorus, known as the atheist,
subsequently as "god." Antipater's pupil was
Epitimides of Cyrene, his was Paraebates, and he
had as pupils Hegesias, the advocate of suicide, and
, who ransomed Plato.
Those then who adhered to the teaching of
Aristippus and were known as Cyrenaics held the
following opinions. They laid down that there are
two states, pleasure and pain, the former a smooth,
the latter a rough motion, and that pleasure does
not differ from pleasure nor is one pleasure more
pleasant than another. T
he one state is agreeable
and the other repellent to all living things. However, the bodily pleasure which is the end is, according to Panaetius in his work
On the Sects
, not the
settled pleasure following the removal of pains, or
the sort of freedom from discomfort which Epicurus
accepts and maintains to be the end. They also
hold that there is a difference between "end" and
"happiness." Our end is particular pleasure, whereas
happiness is the sum total of all particular pleasures,
in which are included both past and future pleasures.
Particular pleasure is desirable for its own sake,
whereas happiness is desirable not for its own sake
but for the sake of particular pleasures. That
pleasure is the end is proved by the fact that from
our youth up we are instinctively attracted to it,
and, when we obtain it, seek for nothing more,
and shun nothing so much as its opposite, pain.
Pleasure is good even if it proceed from the most
unseemly conduct, as Hippobotus says in his work
On the Sects.
For even if the action be
still, at any rate, the resultant pleasure is desirable
for its own sake and is good.
The removal of
pain, however, which is put forward in Epicurus,
seems to them not to be pleasure at all, any more
than the absence of pleasure is pain. For both
pleasure and pain they hold to consist in motion,
whereas absence of pleasure like absence of pain is
not motion, since painlessness is the condition of one
who is, as it were, asleep. They assert that some
people may fail to choose pleasure because their
minds are perverted; not all mental pleasures and
pains, however, are derived from bodily counterparts. For instance, we take disinterested delight
in the prosperity of our country which is as real as
our delight in our own prosperity. Nor again do they
admit that pleasure is derived from the memory or
expectation of good, which was a doctrine of Epicurus.
For they assert that the movement affecting the mind
is exhausted in course of time. Again they hold
that pleasure is not derived from sight or from
hearing alone. At all events, we listen with pleasure
to imitation of mourning, while the reality causes
pain. They gave the names of absence of pleasure
and absence of pain to the intermediate conditions.
However, they insist that bodily pleasures are far
better than mental pleasures, and bodily pains far
worse than mental pains, and that this is the reason
why offenders are punished with the former. For
they assumed pain to be more repellent, pleasure
more congenial. For these reasons they paid more
attention to the body than to the mind. Hence,
although pleasure is in itself desirable, yet they hold
that the things which are productive of certain
pleasures are often of a painful nature, the very
opposite of pleasure; so that to accumulate the
pleasures which are productive of happiness appears
to them a most irksome business.
They do not accept the doctrine that every wise
man lives pleasantly and every fool painfully, but
regard it as true for the most part only. It is
sufficient even if we enjoy but each single pleasure
as it comes. They say that prudence is a good,
though desirable not in itself but on account of its
consequences; that we make friends from interested
motives, just as we cherish any part of the body so
long as we have it; that some of the virtues are
found even in the foolish; that bodily training contributes to the acquisition of virtue; that the sage
will not give way to envy or love or superstition,
since these weaknesses are due to mere empty
opinion; he will, however, feel pain and fear, these
being natural affections;
and that wealth too is
productive of pleasure, though not desirable for its
They affirm that mental affections can be known,
but not the objects from which they come; and
they abandoned the study of nature because of its
apparent uncertainty, but fastened on logical inquiries because of their utility. But Meleager in his
On Philosophical Opinions
, and Clitomachus in his first book
On the Sects
, affirm that
maintain Dialectic as well as Physics to be useless,
since, when one has learnt the theory of good and
evil, it is possible to speak with propriety, to be free
from superstition, and to escape the fear of death.
They also held that nothing is just or honourable or
base by nature, but only by convention and custom.
Nevertheless the good man will be deterred from
wrong-doing by the penalties imposed and the prejudices that it would arouse. Further that the wise
man really exists. They allow progress to be attainable in philosophy as well as in other matters. They
maintain that the pain of one man exceeds that of
another, and that the senses are not always true and
The school of Hegesias, as it is called, adopted the
same ends, namely pleasure and pain. In their view
there is no such thing as gratitude or friendship or
beneficence, because it is not for themselves that we
choose to do these things but simply from motives
of interest, apart from which such conduct is nowhere
They denied the possibility of happiness, for
the body is infected with much suffering, while the
soul shares in the sufferings of the body and is a
prey to disturbance, and fortune often disappoints.
From all this it follows that happiness cannot be
realized. Moreover, life and death are each desirable
in turn. But that there is anything naturally
pleasant or unpleasant they deny; when some men
are pleased and others pained by the same objects,
this is owing to the lack or rarity or surfeit of such
objects. Poverty and riches have no relevance to
pleasure; for neither the rich nor the poor as such
have any special share in pleasure.
freedom, nobility and low birth, honour and dishonour, are alike indifferent in a calculation of
pleasure. To the fool life is advantageous, while to
the wise it is a matter of indifference. The wise man
will be guided in all he does by his own interests,
for there is none other whom he regards as equally
deserving. For supposing him to reap the greatest
advantages from another, they would not be equal to
what he contributes himself. They also disallow
the claims of the senses, because they do not lead
to accurate knowledge. Whatever appears rational
should be done. They affirmed that allowance should
be made for errors, for no man errs voluntarily, but
under constraint of some suffering; that we should
not hate men, but rather teach them better. The
wise man will not have so much advantage over
others in the choice of goods as in the avoidance of
evils, making it his end to live without pain of body
This then, they say, is the advantage
accruing to those who make no distinction between
any of the objects which produce pleasure.
The school of Anniceris
in other respects agreed
with them, but admitted that friendship and gratitude and respect for parents do exist in real life, and
that a good man will sometimes act out of patriotic
motives. Hence, if the wise man receive annoyance,
he will be none the less happy even if few pleasures
accrue to him. The happiness of a friend is not in
itself desirable, for it is not felt by his neighbour.
Instruction is not sufficient in itself to inspire us
with confidence and to make us rise superior to the
opinion of the multitude. Habits must be formed
because of the bad disposition which has grown up
in us from the first.
A friend should be cherished
not merely for his utility--for, if that fails, we should
then no longer associate with him--but for the good
feeling for the sake of which we shall even endure
hardships. Nay, though we make pleasure the end
and are annoyed when deprived of it, we shall
nevertheless cheerfully endure this because of our
love to our friend.
The Theodoreans derived their name from Theo-
dorus, who has already been mentioned, and adopted
his doctrines. Theodorus was a man who utterly
rejected the current belief in the gods. And I have
come across a book of his entitled
Of the Gods
is not contemptible. From that book, they say,
Epicurus borrowed most of what he wrote on the
Theodorus was also a pupil of Anniceris
Dionysius the dialectician, as Antisthenes mentions
Successions of Philosophers.
and grief to be the supreme good and evil, the one
brought about by wisdom, the other by folly. Wisdom and justice he called goods, and their opposites
evils, pleasure and pain being intermediate to good
and evil. Friendship he rejected because it did not
exist between the unwise nor between the wise;
with the former, when the want is removed, the
friendship disappears, whereas the wise are selfsufficient and have no need of friends. It was
reasonable, as he thought, for the good man not to
risk his life in the defence of his country, for he would
never throw wisdom away to benefit the unwise.
He said the world was his country. Theft, adultery,
and sacrilege would be allowable upon occasion, since
none of these acts is by nature base, if once you
have removed the prejudice against them, which is
kept up in order to hold the foolish multitude
together. The wise man would indulge his passions
openly without the least regard to circumstances.
Hence he would use such arguments as this. "Is
a woman who is skilled in grammar useful in so far
as she is skilled in grammar?" "Yes." "And is
a boy or a youth skilled in grammar useful in so far
as he is skilled in grammar?" "Yes."
is a woman who is beautiful useful in so far as she
is beautiful? And the use of beauty is to be enjoyed?" "Yes." When this was admitted, he
would press the argument to the conclusion, namely,
that he who uses anything for the purpose for which
it is useful does no wrong. And by some such
interrogatories he would carry his point.
He appears to have been called
consequence of the following argument addressed to
him by Stilpo. "Are you, Theodorus, what you
declare yourself to be?" To this he assented, and
Stilpo continued, "And do you say you are god?"
To this he agreed. "Then it follows that you are
god." Theodorus accepted this, and Stilpo said with
a smile, "But, you rascal, at this rate you would
allow yourself to be a jackdaw and ten thousand
However, Theodorus, sitting on one occasion beside
Euryclides, the hierophant, began, "Tell me,
Euryclides, who they are who violate the mysteries?"
Euryclides replied, "Those who disclose them to the
uninitiated." "Then you violate them," said Theodorus, "when you explain them to the uninitiated."
Yet he would hardly have escaped from being brought
before the Areopagus if Demetrius of Phalerum had
not rescued him. And Amphicrates in his book
says he was condemned to drink the
For a while he stayed at the court of Ptolemy
the son of Lagus, and was once sent by him as
ambassador to Lysimachus. And on this occasion
his language was so bold that Lysimachus said, "Tell
me, are you not the Theodorus who was banished
from Athens?" To which he replied, "Your in-
formation is correct, for, when Athens could not bear
me any more than Semele could Dionysus, she cast
me out." And upon Lysimachus adding, "Take
care you do not come here again," "I never will,"
said he, "unless Ptolemy sends me." Mithras, the
king's minister, standing by and saying, "It seems
that you can ignore not only gods but kings as well,"
Theodorus replied, "How can you say that I ignore
the gods when I regard you as hateful to the gods?"
He is said on one occasion in Corinth to have walked
abroad with a numerous train of pupils, and Metrocles
the Cynic, who was washing chervil, remarked, "You,
sophist that you are, would not have wanted all
these pupils if you had washed vegetables." Thereupon Theodorus retorted, "And you, if you had
known how to associate with men, would have had no
use for these vegetables."
A similar anecdote is told
of Diogenes and Aristippus, as mentioned above.12
Such was the character of Theodorus and his
surroundings. At last he retired to Cyrene, where
he lived with Magas and continued to be held in
high honour. The first time that he was expelled
from Cyrene he is credited with a witty remark:
men of Cyrene," said he, "for driving me from Libya into Greece."
Some twenty persons have borne the name of
Theodorus: (1) a Samian, the son of Rhoecus. He
it was who advised laying charcoal embers under the
foundations of the temple in Ephesus; for, as the
ground was very damp, the ashes, being free from
woody fibre, would retain a solidity which is actually
proof against moisture. (2) A Cyrenaean geometer,
whose lectures Plato attended. (3) The philosopher
above referred to. (4) The author of a fine work on
practising the voice.
(5) An authority upon musical
composers from Terpander onwards. (6) A Stoic.
(7) A writer upon the Romans. (8) A Syracusan
who wrote upon Tactics. (9) A Byzantine, famous
for his political speeches. (10) Another, equally
famous, mentioned by Aristotle in his Epitome of
Orators. (11) A Theban sculptor. (12) A painter,
mentioned by Polemo. (13) An Athenian painter,
of whom Menodotus writes. (14) An Ephesian
painter, who is mentioned by Theophanes in his
work upon painting. (15) A poet who wrote epigrams. (16) A writer on poets. (17) A physician,
pupil of Athenaeus. (18) A Stoic philosopher of
Chios. (19) A Milesian, also a Stoic philosopher
(20) A tragic poet.